The 10 U.S. States Bordering the Mississippi River

A historic trip along the second longest river in North America

Steamboat River Boat Natchez docked on the Mississippi River in New Orleans French quarter

 Edwin Remsberg/Getty Images

The Mississippi River is the largest system of rivers in the United States, and it is the world's fourth largest river system. In total, the river is 2,320 miles (3,734 km) long, and its drainage basin covers an area of 1,151,000 square miles (2,981,076 sq km). The source of the Mississippi River is Lake Itasca in Minnesota, and the mouth of the river is the ​Gulf of Mexico. There are also a number of large and small tributaries of the river, some of which include the Ohio, Missouri, and Red Rivers.

In total, the Mississippi River drains about 41 percent of the United States and borders 10 different states. The following is a list of the 10 states in order from north to south. For reference, the area, population and capital city of each state have been included. The population estimates are from the U.S. Census Bureau as of July 1, 2017.


Skyline, St Paul, Minnesota

Don Romero/Getty Images 

  • Area: 79,610 square miles (206,190 sq km)
  • Population: 5,576,606
  • Capital: St. Paul

The headwaters of the Mississippi River have historically been noted as being located in Lake Itasca in the northern part of the state, but geologists have raised the question as to whether the river actually ​​starts in South Dakota.


Aerial of Mississippi River, La Crosse, WI

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  • Area: 54,310 square miles (140,673 sq km)
  • Population: 5,795,483
  • Capital: Madison

Wisconsin and four other states comanage the Upper Mississippi River, which includes about 1,250 miles (2,012 km) of the Mississippi's length. Along the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, there are 33 river towns.


Mississippi river

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  • Area: 56,272 square miles (145,743 sq km)
  • Population: 3,145,711
  • Capital: Des Moines

Iowa has several cities that offer Casino riverboats, and almost half of them are on the Mississippi including Burlington, Bettendorf, Clinton, Davenport, Dubuque, and Marquette.


Alton Bridge Over Mississippi River, Illinois, USA

 Danita Delimont/Getty Images

  • Area: 55,584 square miles (143,963 sq km)
  • Population: 12,802,023
  • Capital: Springfield

Illinois has the largest population among all the Mississippi River border states but not the most total area. The Lower Mississippi River begins at Cairo, Illinois.


St. Louis Arch Beyond Eads Bridge at Sunset

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  • Area: 68,886 square miles (178,415 sq km)
  • Population: 6,113,532
  • Capital: Jefferson City

In Missouri's section, you can visit St. Louis and see where the Missouri River joins the Mississippi.


Freight train traveling on bridge, Ohio River near Mississippi River junction, Kentucky, USA

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  • Area: 39,728 square miles (102,896 sq km)
  • Population: 4,454,189
  • Capital: Frankfort

A portion of Kentucky bordered by the Mississippi River known as the "Kentucky Bend" is accessible by land only through Tennessee. When surveyors were delineating the border between the two states, they had only estimated where the ​Mississippi would meet their border. The snaking of the river at that point created a peninsula that turned out to belong to Kentucky when the surveys were finalized.


Tennessee, Nashville, Maybe Bob Dylan was on to something: The Mississippi River flows by the Nashville Skyline at dawn.

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  • Area: 41,217 square miles (106,752 sq km)
  • Population: 6,715,984
  • Capital: Nashville

A Tennessee trip down the Mississippi ends in Memphis, after traveling through bluff country, land with majestic cypress trees, and past the site of a Civil War battle, now Fort Pillow State Park.


Mud Island River Park, Hernando de Soto Bridge across Mississippi River to Arkansas.

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  • Area: 52,068 square miles (134,856 sq km)
  • Population: 3,004,279
  • Capital: Little Rock

In Arkansas, the Mississippi River crosses the Delta region of the South. There are no fewer than four state parks along the state's river frontage.


River boat casino on Mississippi river

 Franz Aberham/Getty Images

  • Area: 46,907 square miles (121,489 sq km)
  • Population: 2,984,100
  • Capital: Jackson

Mississippi's extensive river region is the birthplace of the Delta blues (and contains Delta swamps, bayous, and wetlands). You can also visit the site of an important Civil War battle, at Vicksburg.   


Paddlewheeler Pier at Dusk

Richard Cummins/Getty Images 

  • Area: 43,562 square miles (112,826 sq km)
  • Population: 4,684,333
  • Capital: Baton Rouge 

Historic Louisiana cities Baton Rouge and New Orleans are both Mississippi River cities. It's below New Orleans where the river empties into the Gulf of Mexico. The river is deepest at Algiers Point in New Orleans.